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Ancient Champion: Let Ed Ruscha Be Your Guide Drop everything and head directly to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for NOW THEN the Ed Ruscha retrospective

Ancient Champion: Let Ed Ruscha Be Your Guide

Drop everything and head directly to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for NOW THEN the Ed Ruscha retrospective

by Ancient Champion, Columnist
first published: April, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

Ed's storied career hasn't had a show like this dedicated to it in over 20 years.

APRIL 7th - OCTOBER 6th, 2024

Career retrospectives from art’s old dudes are exhausting to get around aren’t they? I’ve done them before. Magritte. Blisters on my feet. Basquiat. Wanted to eat my hat. Rauschenberg - oh something dumb about getting back to the kerb. They’ve done so much, they’re so extensive, they’re so expansive. They are so expensive. And that's before you get to the gift shop→. Oh man, the ticket prices, you might be forgiven for thinking that the arts were for the middle classes.

I wonder how the revenues breakout in these big shows. The artwork is invariably the property of some or other museum or gallery or is in private hands. It is loaned to the institution. The tickets are sold. Does the artist get a cut of the tickets or are they just in on the merch stand takings or what?

Still, all grumbling aside, Ed Ruscha at lackma is the blockbuster show of the next two or three seasons depending on how you count your seasons. Ed’s storied career hasn’t had a show like this dedicated to it in over 20 years. The last thing I saw were some disparate word cloud pieces. I can’t remember the setting. Probably LACMA. Words. In the clouds. Actual clouds. Not some subliminal digital word cloud thing, lest there be any confusion. Like the voice of God.

Of course this provides me with an opportunity to recount my Ed encounters, as I always like to. Mrs Champion -  who never ever calls herself that, says these are my most repeated and therefore saddest anecdotes - alongside my Mark Romanek coffee table book appearance - I have told you about the Champ featuring in movie director Mark Romanek's coffee table book alongside Madonna haven’t I? A book I still show to anyone ever whenever they come round to the house. Anyway, Ed. Anecdotes. I saw him at the Hopps and Herms Found Art Hot Set show an age ago at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. When my friend Lisa was a big admin fixture over there. Ed was looking swell. And surrounded by young, female, I guess, art assistants. Although to be fair almost everyone in the room was younger than him and me then. He had that beautiful charismatic sheen, like a silver haired version of the Liam Gallagher I once saw in a Primrose Hill pub. 

As you can tell, I have very few celeb encounters to call on for comparison. Although the other day I did see Jessica Gunning (from Baby Reindeer) - not getting the flavour of juice she was looking for, around Dean Street, and so, moving on. I wondered whether she was appearing at a theatre that night, getting a drink on her way to work. If so, whatever she was in, couldn’t have been as totally terribly misconceived as what we saw.

Meanwhile, I love Ed’s Some Los Angeles Apartments so much. A Perfect and so perfectly slender photography document of those compact mid-century Los Angeles apartment buildings. Elevating our intrigue in the everyday. My favourite book without words, except for the addresses. 30 years later, along with photographer Chad, we revisited as many of these addresses as we could find, mainly in South Los Angeles. So many of the apartments were gone, of course. Los Angeles doesn’t always value that history. Stripmalls had supplanted the beautiful buildings, many neighbourhoods and communities had changed. People often stopped and scrutinised two white guys dressed in polyester pointing their giant camera with perhaps not unreasonable suspicion. If I was generous to Chad and me, I might say we might have looked like extras from the Beastie Boys Sabotage video. But not that good.

intermission. an opportunity to break up a big show with cake and coffee is a necessity

Ron & Nancy - Chad (so great he got his own song)

The architecture is the vernacular of Los Angeles and Ruscha spent a lifetime capturing the city through his photography, paintings and drawings. Wholly, to the outsider,  romanticising the very normal. His work is invariably beautiful. Evoking a time and a place. The found and lost. 

The show also includes his installation Chocolate Room. It’s a chocolate room, made from chocolate originally produced in Italy for the 1970 Venice Biennale. At LACMA a recreation I imagine. I read somewhere one time that the original had been a magnet for ants. Could be. Now is your chance to find out. Don't blow it.

LACMA's website is here→

APRIL 7th - OCTOBER 6th, 2024

Ancient Champion

Ancient Champion writes for OUTSIDELEFT while relentlessly recording and releasing instrumental easy listening music for difficult people. The Champ is working on Public Transport, a new short story collection that takes up where 2021's Six Stories About Motoring Nowhere (Disco City Books) left off. It should be ready in time for the summer holidays. More info at

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